When people talk about vocations, the careers that tend to come up are teaching, medicine and the police. There are some jobs that become your life; they drive you and define you. For me, being a chef is one of these professions.

This week has been Chef Appreciation Week - something that we take seriously at Compass UK & Ireland, because we know that our frontline teams sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve. While professional cooking can be a challenging and high-pressure experience, it has the end goal of making people happy. Working in a busy kitchen, chefs don’t always see the positive comments and outcomes; and it’s easy to move on to the next task without reflecting.

Chefs have lots of responsibility:  it’s not just about food preparation and cooking but allergen management, client relationships, delivering a legendary customer experience, understanding sustainable practices do produce dishes for future generations to enjoy, and so much more. This week has been about recognising what they do and what a unique skillset they have.

While an appreciation week is a great opportunity to acknowledge culinary teams, we should always be celebrating them. In our organisation, chefs are integral to our business, partnerships, and customers; and in everyday life, chefs have a big impact - from making a special occasion, to ensuring our kids eat nutritious and tasty lunches at school. Our lives are touched by chefs every day, often without a second thought - yet how often is the food we eat the topic of conversation with family, friends and colleagues?

Post-pandemic the industry has had to rebuild, seeing a big recruitment drive as services have roared back to life. I believe there’s never been a better time to be a chef in food services: the work/life balance is better than ever, the culture is positive and collaborative, and the hours are manageable. With endless opportunities, being a chef has all the ingredients to be the most rewarding job.

At Compass, we’re focused on recruiting the next generation of talent, and crucially, we’re committed to retention. As one of the largest employers in the UK, Compass takes its responsibility as an employer very seriously and last year launched “Our Social Promise”, to support one million people through job creation, education, training, community, and charitable engagement by 2030.

When we recruit it’s not just about getting people in the door but we want to ensure they stay and are aware of the options to have a career in culinary and food service. As part of this, we offer an excellent apprenticeship programme, which provides opportunities for skills development and an aspirational roadmap for people at all stages of their career.

So let’s take a minute to recognise chefs, and hopefully inspire new ones too. While skills can be taught and talent can be nurtured, the best and most successful chefs have more than that: they have passion. We love food and we love pleasing people, so the positivity created by simple recognition cannot be underestimated.

David Bell is Regional Executive Chef, Levy Scotland, part of Compass Scotland, which provides food and support services to leading venues across Scotland.